Monday, May 3, 2010

Anti-torture bill is much needed, even though most laws are ineffective in India

From news of 9th April:

Though enacting the law is a step towards ratification of the UN convention against other cruel, inhuman punishment and degrading treatment, and has been pending for some time now, the timing of the bill gave rise to a question or two at the Cabinet meeting.

The argument was clinched as the PM pointed to the need for a law that underscored India's respect for human rights even as the government had promised to bring to book those guilty of killing 76 security personnel in a ruthless ambush on Tuesday. Singh has been particular that a detailed law be enacted to define torture, both physical and mental, that would attract penal action.

The proposed law has been hanging fire as over the past year, it was first suggested by home ministry that some changes in IPC would suffice. It was then argued that changes in the Evidence Act would also be needed. As it was felt that no less than three-four laws would have to be altered, the PM went along with a new law being framed.

The prevention of torture law is intended to align Indian law with the UN convention and India is now only one of a handful of signatory nations not to do so. The ratification of the convention will enable provisions in the convention to be part of Indian law. Though some of these exist in Indian law, they do not define "torture" as closely as the convention does.

The last para gives the probably most important reason that this law is being pushed.  India does not want to be seen living in a ‘brutal’ image when all other countries have well-defined laws against torture and police brutality.  Recent beating and torture of a foreign journalist has not helped either the ‘clean image’ India wants to project to international community.

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